Heyl & Patterson Blog

Clean Coal Could be the Solution to Global Warming

Posted by H&P Blog on Wed, Mar 06, 2013 @ 11:10 AM

Much has been made of the recent development by Ohio State University into clean coal processing technology.  This effort utilizes an innovative process called "chemical looping."  Typical coal-fired power plants burn coal to heat water, which makes steam, which then turns the turbines that produce electricity.  In chemical looping, coal isn't burned with fire, but instead is chemically combusted within a sealed chamber so it does not pollute the air.

Guest blogger Sarah Battaglia of Energy Curtailment Specialists in Buffalo, NY examines this new clean coal technology being developed:

Coal PileThe damaging effects that result from burning coal may soon be nonexistent.  It took scientists from Ohio State University 15 years and $5 million, but the clean coal technique has finally been developed.  They have discovered a way to obtain the energy from coal without actually burning it, eliminating nearly all of the pollution.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), “Coal emits sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and heavy metals (such as mercury and arsenic) and acid gases (such as hydrogen chloride), which have been linked to acid rain, smog, and health issues. Coal also emits carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas.”  Even with so many harmful side-effects, the U.S. continues get a large amount of its energy from coal, roughly 20 percent.  Well enough is enough.  It is time to embrace the clean coal technique.

Eliminating 99 percent of the pollution from coal, the Coal-Direct Chemical Looping (CDCL) technique will have a significant impact on the rate of global warming.  The Environmental Protection Agency has found that in 2010, coal-burning power plants were responsible for about one-third of the country’s carbon dioxide, equivalent to 2.3 billion metric tons.  If energy can be obtained from coal without burning it, this number should drop considerably.

Liang-Shih Fan, a chemical engineer and director of Ohio State’s Clean Coal Research Laboratory, explains the process, “We found a way to release the heat without burning.  We carefully control the chemical reaction so that the coal never burns–it is consumed chemically, and the carbon dioxide is entirely contained inside the reactor.”  The metal from the iron-oxide is recyclable and the only waste products are coal ash and water.  If everything goes according to plan, Fan is confident that his discovery can be used to power energy plants within the next 10 years.

Research Associate Dawei Wang shared his thoughts regarding the benefits of this technology, “The commercial-scale CDCL plant could really promote our energy independence.  Not only can we use America’s natural resources such as Ohio coal, but we can keep our air clean and spur the economy with jobs.”

President Obama is already in complete support for the development of clean coal.  In 2011, he declared his goal of generating 80 percent of the nation’s energy from clean sources, including clean coal.  The following year, he summarized the “all-of-the-above” energy strategy, which also incorporated clean coal technologies.

Although the President is on board for clean coal development, two liberal senators recently introduced a bill that would put an end to Obama’s research and development for this safe alternative.  Senator Barbara Boxer and Senator Bernie Sanders are attempting to eliminate The Energy Department’s Office of Fossil Energy Research and Development under the Sustainable Energy Act.  Although many believe that the legislation will not pass Congress, nothing is for certain just yet.

With the level of carbon emissions spiraling out of control, our nation is in desperate need of a solution.  As of right now, the CDCL seems to be the only logical answer to reducing the current rate of global warming without completely eliminating the use of coal, one of the nation’s primary sources of energy.

Sarah Battaglia
Energy Curtailment Specialists, Inc.

Sarah can be found on LinkedIn and Google+.


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